Prostitution and violence

Authored by: Natasha Mulvihill

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472483515
eBook ISBN: 9781315612997
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers how the relationship between prostitution and violence has been theorised and how the prevailing fault lines within the research on the normative status of prostitution are reflected in identifying the causes of, and responses to, violence. The academic literature on prostitution has been dominated by two often conflicting perspectives. First, that prostitution is violence against women (Jeffreys, 1997, 2009; Barry, 1995) and is rooted in patriarchal relations. Second, that prostitution is work (Campbell and O’Neill, 2006; Delacoste and Alexander, 1998; Kempadoo and Doezema, 1998), for which women and men should be afforded labour rights and legal protections. In reviewing the research on prostitution and violence, the strengths and limitations of each framework are considered, as well as briefly introducing ‘symbolic violence’ (Bourdieu, 1990; Coy et al., 2011) as an alternative resource that moves between and beyond this dichotomy.

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